John had sat down to rest his wounded knee and to study the letter he’d found when he heard the light tap of a parasol and a familiar voice. “Mr. Given, have you hidden yourself so well to avoid me?”
John looked up. He had just learned that Sarah Pears of New Harmony, 1825, had thought the town concerts good but felt like a desperate, caged bird, and here now was Ann Bradley of New Harmony, 1862, in full regalia before him. “Don’t get up, John,” she said, looking down at his knee.
“Ann,” he managed. He pushed himself up, slipping the letter back into the pamphlet where he’d found it. He made space on the table for her reticule and the book she was holding, but she didn’t sit down. “I heard you were back,” he said, trying to sound a good deal calmer than he felt. “From Evansville.”
“And I had your messages from your sisters. I’ve gotten a letter from you today that I think came by way of Antartica. You were in St. Louis and planning to have your picture made.” Ann was all sparkle and flashing green eyes as she smiled at John. He took in her brown dress and cloak and the bit of lace at her throat and the beaver hat that he assumed was a hand-me-down from Mrs. David Dale Owen. Then, to his great surprise, Ann grew serious and reached down a gloved hand and carefully touched his knee.
“Is it this leg?” she asked, and he thought he had felt every sensation in his knee it was possible to feel until he had felt this one. “It was such a shock seeing your name listed with the wounded. And poor John Hugo. I’m very glad you weren’t killed.”
“I am as well,” he said, trying to cover his confusion by straightening the pamphlet against the table edge. He had managed a day and part of another without looking for Ann and, at the moment, he had no idea why.
“I won’t ask if you’re coming to the ball tomorrow, but you’ll be at the play Saturday, won’t you? I saw you just sitting here and, as much as I have to hurry, I knew I must ask.”
So she hadn’t been hunting for him. That was what registered, but John heard himself agreeing anyway. He would be at the play. And he could go to the ball, he told her. He was hobbled, yes, but he would be delighted to watch the whole night’s sets. And, even if he didn’t say it, he did think it, as she nodded a quick goodby and went up to Mr. White to check out her book: he could go anywhere at all—anywhere Ann Bradley would be that he might be as well.